Though certainly not blessed with the best luck in terms of health, the Chicago Bulls are lucky to have the type of deep, playoff-ready squad that nagging injuries has only made deeper.
We all know the Derrick Rose storyline, but even his absence has served as a blessing in disguise for this 2014-15 Bulls posse. Sans Rose, Aaron Brooks has stepped up in a respectable manner, averaging 15.5-4.7-2.5 on 42.6/32.4/86.7 shooting. Not mind-boggling numbers but better in the course of the last 10 games (16.5-4.8-2.9 on 47.3 shooting), and certainly the type of stats that one would expect from a third-string guard.
Most importantly, the nagging injuries has matured the play of second stringers Tony Snell and Nikola Mirotic. Tony has gone cold since a surprising February when he filled in admirably for then-injured Jimmy Butler, bothering and outplaying LeBron in a Bulls win against the Cavs two days before Valentine’s. He’s since pulled together some nice games, albeit far in between, and remains a nice defender who can space the floor (when on).
Mirotic has been the gaudier storyline. He’s been playing like a man—let alone a rookie—possessed. In the month of March, he’s averaging 20.8-7.6-1.7-1.2.-0.8 on 44.1/26.3/83.5. Outside of the three-point percentage, those are pristine numbers for a 6-foot-10 power forward who is a rookie that’s just recently been getting considerable playing time. With Threekola on the floor, the Bulls are posting a better point differential than the East-leading Hawks. He’s posted some of the best bench numbers for the month, passed Marcus Smart for rookie with the most three-pointers, and was leading Westbrook and James in fourth-quarter scoring at some point.
His play has been so superb that he’s making fans of Andrew Wiggins question their ROY-loyalty. What’s more, Nikola’s play has been so eye-opening—he’s been draining unreal stepback threes, taking point guards off the dribble, running the pick-and-roll, hitting turnaround fadeaways with ease, taking the ball to the hoop, improving on defense—that some are already concerned as to how the Bulls might weave him into an already crowded frontline. Not a bad problem to have but still a problem and the main catalyst for this article.
The Bulls, now with a healthy Butler and Gibson in tow, are blessed with untold options. Finding the right one, while appeasing its key contributors, will be tough. Mirotic can handle playing the three-spot fine, but will get beaten by guys like James, DeMarre Carroll and even Terrence Ross. At the four is where he reigns which also happens to be where Gasol and Gibson put down work.
Teams across the 50 states (and Toronto) would do immoral things to nab a Gibson or a Gasol, yet, here are the Bulls with them and Noah, and Mirotic, to plug in in some conceivable and playoff-friendly manner.
Once Rose returns, which he plans on doing, it’ll be another option with which to contend with. It’s a fun time to be a Bulls fan, less so for coach Tom Thibodeau who is trying to cook a meal no one has the recipe to. Still, the best thing about being in a fortunate position is that more options than not are usually at hand. And so, the Bulls are blessed to be in the very position they hoped to be in since before the season started.